James Damore, the former Google engineer who was sacked after penning an internal memo criticising the tech giant's "politically correct" culture and affirmative action hiring policies, has filed a class-action lawsuit against his former employer.
In the 161-page suit, filed in the Santa Clara Superior Court in Northern California on Monday, Damore and another former engineer named David Gudeman accuse Google of discriminating against conservative, white males.
Damore's 10-page memo, originally posted to an internal Google discussion board, went viral last year after being leaked to tech websites Motherboard and Gizmodo, which "selectively quoted from the memo and misinterpreted it", the lawsuit says.
The memo's most controversial claim was to suggest that underrepresentation of women in the tech industry was due to biological differences in behaviour and personality affecting occupational interests at a "population level", rather than the result of bias or discrimination.
The engineer was quickly sacked for "perpetuating gender stereotypes", while Google chief executive Sundar Pichai described the memo as "harmful".
"To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK," he wrote in an internal email at the time.
Republican lawyer Harmeet Dhillon, known for taking on high-profile and controversial cases, has brought the case on behalf of Damore, Gudeman and all Google employees "discriminated against due to their perceived conservative political views", "due to their male gender" or "due to their caucasian race".
"Google employees who expressed views deviating from the majority view at Google on political subjects raised in the workplace and relevant to Google's employment policies and its business, such as 'diversity' hiring policies, 'bias sensitivity', or 'social justice', were/are singled out, mistreated and systematically punished and terminated from Google, in violation of their legal rights," the lawsuit reads.
"Google's open hostility for conservative thought is paired with invidious discrimination on the basis of race and gender, barred by law.
"Google's management goes to extreme — and illegal — lengths to encourage hiring managers to take protected categories such as race and/or gender into consideration as determinative hiring factors, to the detriment of Caucasian and male employees and potential employees at Google."
The suit also accuses Google of discriminating against Asians — the company defined "diverse" individuals, to be funnelled into high-priority hiring queues, as women or "individuals who were not Caucasian or Asian", it says.
The suit goes on to allege that Damore, Gudeman and others were "ostracised, belittled, and punished for their heterodox political views, and for the added sin of their birth circumstances of being Caucasians and/or males".
"This is the essence of discrimination — Google formed opinions about and then treated Plaintiffs not based on their individual merits, but rather on their membership in groups with assumed characteristics."
It says that Damore and others were "openly threatened and subjected to harassment and retaliation from Google" when they challenged Google's "illegal employment practices", with Google employees and managers "strongly [preferring] to hear the same orthodox opinions regurgitated repeatedly, producing an ideological echo chamber, a protected, distorted bubble of groupthink".
According to the lawsuit, after the memo went viral Damore received a late-night email from Alex Hidalgo, a site reliability engineer at Google, which read, "You're a misogynist and a terrible person. I will keep hounding you until one of us is fired. F*** you."
The lawsuit accuses Google of creating "an environment of protecting employees who harassed individuals who spoke out against Google's view or the 'Googley way', as it is sometimes known internally".
After Damore was sacked, Google employees were awarded bonuses for arguing against his political views. The Google Recognition team allows employees to give one another "Peer Bonuses", typically for "outstanding work performance or for going above and beyond an employee's job duties".
In one case, and employee gave a Peer Bonus to a colleague for "speaking up for googley values and promoting [diversity and inclusion] in the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is [Damore's Memo]".
"The Google Recognition Team reviewed this justification, considered it appropriate, and allowed the bonus to proceed," the lawsuit says.
Google is also accused of employing "illegal hiring quotas to fill its desired percentages of women and favoured minority candidates", while "openly [shaming] managers of business units who fail to meet their quotas — in the process, openly denigrating male and Caucasian employees as less favoured than others".
"Not only was the numerical presence of women celebrated at Google solely due to their gender, but the presence of Caucasians and males was mocked with 'boos' during company-wide weekly meetings," the lawsuit says.
Other allegations include that Google maintains internal "blacklists" of employees or potential employees who hold or express conservative political views, and even that it maintains "secret blacklists" of conservative authors.
In August 2016, the lawsuit says, conservative blogger Curtis Yarvin, who has reportedly advised Steve Bannon, Peter Thiel and members of the Trump administration, visited the Google office to have lunch with an employee.
"This triggered a silent alarm, alerting security personnel to escort him off the premises," the lawsuit says. When a Google employee asked HR if writers could be removed from the blacklist, HR "refused to help with the request, and instead, reconfigured the internal system so that it was no longer possible to see who was on the blacklist".
Google has been contacted for comment.